Their latest, “See the Light,” will be released Oct. 30 on the Heart of Gold Records label. Head ’Worm Russell Mefford said there will be a listening party Oct. 29 at the Marriott to debut the new record.
“See the Light” is a who’s who of Muscle Shoals musicians and songwriters. One track includes writing credits from Scott Boyer and Donnie Fritts, and one track features backing vocals by Donna Godchaux MacKay, who got her start in the business singing backup on Percy Sledge and Elvis Presley records before joining the Grateful Dead.
And, in a precedent set by Fleetwood Mac on the “Tusk” album, the University of North Alabama Pride of Dixie Marching Band appears on one track, with saxophone and arrangement by band Director Lloyd Jones. Many more Muscle Shoals stalwarts appear on the record, as well.
“See the Light” was recorded at NuttHouse Recording Studio in Sheffield, and was produced by owner Jimmy Nutt.
There’s another Muscle Shoals release on the horizon that will generate international attention. London-based Ace Records has convinced singer and songwriter Dan Penn to release demos he and Spooner Oldham recorded at FAME Studios in the 1960s. Alec Palao, Ace’s U.S. West Coast representative, said the CD, “The Fame Recordings,” will be released in late November. Among the 24 tracks are early versions of “Rainbow Road,” “The Puppet” (later retitled “I’m Your Puppet”), and “It Tears Me Up.”
Penn’s demos have attained mythic status among fans of deep Southern Soul. Penn is easily one of the finest songwriters of the 1960s and one of the best to work in Muscle Shoals.
Apparently, Penn has been reluctant to allow the demos to be released, preferring that fans hear the finished products. But I’ve heard one of the demos on the FAME playback system. It was incredible.
Ace Records specializes in releasing classic and/or obscure recordings. In 2011, they issued a three-CD boxed set of artists who have recorded at FAME. It was an eye-opener on how diverse the artists who worked there really were.
Speaking of FAME, Grammy-winner The Civil Wars recorded there recently. A snippet of one of the songs they’ve recorded has leaked out on the Internet, and it’s a version of Etta James’ “Tell Mama,” which she recorded there in 1968.
Staff writer Robert Palmer’s music column is published the first Friday of each month. He can be reached at 256-740-5720 or robert.palmer@TimesDaily.com.